About Jim Bamboulis
Jim Bamboulis has held several posts over the past 12 years, including National Sportscaster, Food Host and Writer, Talk Show Host, Olympic Researcher and Travel Film-maker.
Born and raised in Toronto, Jim learned early on that the combination of travel and food meant ultimate living. Combining his insatiable creative spirit and desire to document his travels, Jim took his unshakable travel bug and set off to explore. Add the fact that Jim also grew up in a Greek household and he learned that not only does Mom always make the best meals, but as importantly learned the importance of understanding and appreciating the countless beautiful cultures and the integral role food plays in every corner of the World.
In August 2009, Jim founded Travel Mammal, a site that brings together his travels and experiences (both good and terrifying) with the hope that others are inspired to share their own. We are all storytellers, especially when it comes to travel and food. He urges everyone to be inspired, explore and love the world and the people that share it with us. Or in other words, Live to Travel and travel to live!
Latest Posts by Jim Bamboulis
Ahhh yes, a summer or early fall getaway…..a spot to let your eyes gaze out onto an endless sky, an endless lake. To get inspired, to breathe. And it’s all within driving distance of Toronto. I’m talking about beautiful and serene Bayfield, Ontario.
Bayfield sits on the edge of Lake Huron. It’s only about 2 1/2 hours west of Toronto and yet, often overlooked by the bigger, glitzy coastal towns along Huron. Sauble Beach for example is a couple of hours north and attracts so many people that it’s often hard to even find a space to lay your towel down on the sand (or even space in the water) without violating someone else’s personal space.
Grand Bend is about 30 minutes south and again, it’s so crowded you may not get that beach space you want.
Don’t get me wrong, Sauble and Grand Bend are amazing places with so much to do and see. But if you want serenity and space, a place where you can feel time slow right down for you, then hit Bayfield. Great for young and old, couples, families or even solo. It’s between the two giants and in my opinion, better!
Look out into the lake you’ll see something sticking 12 feet up above the surface. It’s part of a vessel, the Lynda Hindman, which was hauled from Goderich to Bayfield about 30 years ago to use as a break wall and prevent further erosion of the beach. Apparently, the brigadier decided to leave it out there. That and nasty storms over the past three decades have reportedly broken up the vessel. What remains sticking up is the stern. With the water level so low, it allows for it to be seen and climbed on. Swimmers often head out and stand on it.
Love cute, charming and intimate historic centres? Yup, you know where I’m going with this. Bayfield’s got that too. Founded in the early 1830s, Bayfield has a stroll-worthy downtown, complete with green space, inn’s, rustic restaurants and shops. But if you want to get beyond the surface, consider a walking tour. There’s plenty to choose from.
And finally, you can’t talk about Lake Huron and Bayfield without mentioning the sunsets. They’re epic and people set up camp early in the evening at Pioneer Park for the best seat in the house. It’s a beauty park during the day and offers an amazing view at dusk. Bring a picnic and take your time.
There you have it! Bayfield, Ontario. Peaceful, beautiful, historic with an awesome beach and a surreal sunset. Perfect for everyone. Come early and leave late. Definitely go while the weather is amazing. You’ll love it!
Been to Bayfield? Have something to share that we missed? Let us know below.
I had a friend recently tell me about how beautiful it is to take the train through Paris, Ontario. The rail bridge is elevated over the Grand River and you get a perfect view of the small town in the near distance. But, he admitted that’s he’s never stopped to see the town.
Paris is located about an hour and half west of Toronto. It’s known as the cobblestone capital of Canada because of the number of aged cobblestone houses. A key example of this is historic Hamilton Place, a house built in the 1840s in the Greek Revival Style and constructed entirely of cobblestone. Paris is considered to be one of, if not the prettiest small towns Canada. It has loads of charm, serenity, friendly people, restaurants, bakeries and of course a picturesque backdrop. And although Parisians here don’t separate their neighbourhoods by Arrondissements, you can make a case for Paris, Ontario having a left and right bank of the Grand River.
The town has hosted an annual Fall Fair over the Labour Day long weekend for more than 150 years. It attracts thousands and features grandstand entertainment, agricultural displays, exhibits, livestock shows, a midway and even a demolition derby.
Instead of going on and talking about Paris, I thought to better show you what Paris, Ontario is all about in photos.
The Arlington Hotel. Built in 1850, it’s an Ontario Heritage Site
Paris, Ontario makes for an ideal road trip. Local food, local charm and not too far from the big city. For more information about restaurants, accommodations and other activities along the banks of the Grand, please refer to the official Paris, Ontario directory. My advice is to park the car and walk around. Take your time, relax and discover Paris your way. Meander the streets and sample the flavours.
In Canada’s Southern Ontario, Long Point Provincial Park offers canoeing, bird watching, beach, biking, peace and relaxation and it’s only a two hour drive from Toronto. Read about why Long Point is a road trip you must do. Within Long Point sits Long Point Provincial Park which was established in 1921.
The park isn’t so much a hidden gem as it is more of a well known summer wonderland for all sorts of nature lovers. Residents in this part of Ontario and visitors from Western New York and even Pennsylvania know Long Point all too well. It’s a retreat, a time for peace and relaxation with some fun in the water.
Long Point is located within a World Biosphere Reserve. There’s nearly 2km of beach available for you to enjoy but keep in mind that there are no lifeguards on the beach and they say Lake Erie can have a pretty mean undertow so safety is key. If you’re a bird lover, Long Point is one of the most important spots for bird watching and bird studying in Canada. So important that the Long Point Bird Observatory is the oldest bird observatory in North America. Hundreds of thousands of migrating birds pass through here in the Fall and Spring. There are also more than 300 migratory bird species that visit.
All of these activities add up to a pretty good day and if you’re lucky, a pretty enjoyable week.
It’s costs $14.50 to enter Long Point Provincial Park. You get access to all the amenities and it’s obviously convenient for those staying a while. But if you’re only there for a short time and just want to hit the beach, you can try to find a spot to park your car on the side of Erie Boulevard (the main road leading to the park) and walk 1 block south to Beach Avenue. There, you’ll find pedestrian access points to the public beach which connects to the Park beach.
Park your cars where you’re allowed to do so and keep in mind that if you’re walking along the beach and reach the Park boundary, there are a few park rules that are posted.
I have to make something clear. I’m not a fan of scamming the system or not paying for what I use. I feel that parks in general are treasures that we should invest in. But if you want to save $15 bucks and take in the beach, this is a good alternative.
Naturally, after a long day at the beach, you need ice cream. The Long Point Ice Cream shack has you covered. Located at probably the best location possible, this place has nearly 2 dozen flavours to make you happy. By the way, the ice cream is damn creamy and delicious. Ice cream with a view on the beach. Right?!
There you have it! Long Point Provincial Park. Another beautiful location along Lake Erie in picturesque Norfolk County. Of course, you can make it a beach weekend both here and in Port Dover, which as you may have read in a previous article, comes complete with palm trees and restaurants.
There are some really beautiful spots that surround Toronto in all directions, including the north shore of Lake Erie. Let’s give some love for Ontario’s South Coast, specifically, Port Dover. Located about 2 hours SW of Toronto, Port Dover, has been described as Canada’s Cape Cod. It has something for everyone, including beach lovers, sunset lovers, hot dog lovers and even bikers. In fact, since 1981 bikers from all over have congregated to this small lake side town for good times every Friday the 13th.
What To Do
You can spend an entire day at the beach. Start your day by taking a walk to the pier, rent a long board, take a dip, worship the sun and then stick around for the epic sunset. With restaurants, palm trees and that serene sound of light waves crashing, Port Dover’s beach looks and feels like something out of the Mediterranean. You’ll find couples, friends and families gathered peacefully on a long stretch of quiet beach, enjoying the summer day. Yes, I knew that there was a beach here but I had no idea that it looked like this!
Where to Eat
All that time on that beach will make you hungry. Port Dover has plenty of food options to choose from. Along Main Street you’ve got a Parisian style bakery, Jasmine’s Foodery and what turned out to be my favourite, The Coffee Shop. This is a local gem as far as I’m concerned. Personalized, friendly service, great variety of sandwiches and wraps at reasonable prices with small town ambiance.
If you’re into the bigger boys on the block with fame and food, there are many options too. Just depends what you want. Knechtel’s is close to the beach, has picnic tables out front along the street and which serves up a bunch of dishes ranging from burgers to pickerel.
Want a meal to go with an amazing view of the beach, then try to grab a table at Callahan’s Beach House. If you were any closer to the water, you’d be eating in it. People watching with a warm lake breeze, palm trees swaying in the wind. Callahan’s a hot spot for good reason.
One of the biggest draws when it comes to food in Port Dover is The Arbor. It will satisfy your hot dog fix. You can’t miss it. It’s been serving up its famous foot longs (aka Ritz Red Hots) for more than 80 years….with so many condiments you’ll load up and watch your hot dog disappear somewhere in the bun. The Arbor is also loved for its French fries, ice cream and unique beverages.
Photo courtesy Margaret Bourne, Suburban Tourist
Where to Stay
Long day at the beach. Plenty of eats. How about some sleep? For a town this small, Port Dover has nearly two dozen places to rest. From cottages to B+B’s, you have options. But if you want to stay in a historical hotel, close to the beach, close to the action, then consider the Erie Beach Hotel. It’s a classic low-rise that dates back to the mid-1940s. It has 18 rooms, 2 restaurants and yes, free WiFi.
If you’ve been before and want to add a restaurant or attraction in Port Dover that we’ve missed, please go ahead and let us know. If you haven’t been and want to squeeze in some beach time, complete with palm trees before the summer’s out, then pack the car and go. It’s a great trip and a great time in Port Dover.
Take note: a fabulous summer road trip idea from Toronto is Lake on a Mountain, which is a park and natural wonder, surrounded by beautiful scenery and lovely vistas. Lake on a Mountain is about 2 1/2 hours east of Toronto and is located on the eastern part of Prince Edward County, THE hot spot to visit in Canada these days. You have to venture through Picton to get to Lake on a Mountain, but of course you don’t just go through Picton. You would be short-changing your trip. In Picton, you stop, stroll and explore.
The Regent Theatre, the centrepiece of a picturesque downtown Picton
Lake on a Mountain was a mystery at one point. Especially when trying to figure out where the source of the water came from. After all, Lake on a Mountain is more than 200 feet above Lake Ontario. The Mohawks called it the Lake of the Gods. They believed it was home to powerful spirits. It’s now believed that the clean and fresh water comes from 2 small streams from the surrounding higher land. Early settlers here thought the Lake was bottomless. These days, the depth still isn’t known but it’s thought to be about 112 feet.
And because you’re already more than 200 feet up the mountain, you get to experience some incredible views of the Bay of Quinte. If you want to continue driving east towards Kingston, the Glenora Ferry connects you from PEC to the mainland on the bottom of the mountain. The ferry works as a nautical thread of The Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33). Otherwise, bring a picnic or take some time and enjoy the vista.
There you have it. Lake on a Mountain! This makes an ideal road trip from Toronto. It’s a small Provincial Park located on an island and surrounded by beauty. What else do you want?
West Queen West is loaded with food, coffee and entertainment options. That’s why we had a local tells us the 5 best places to eat, drink and be happy are along this busy strip.
For those of you who have been to downtown Toronto know, it’s often loud, hectic and frantic and at times, pretentious…..but, always beautiful. City Hall (old and new), Nathan Philipps Square, Eaton Centre and of course Bay Street, the financial epicentre of Canada, are found along the downtown section of the 501 streetcar route. And the beauty of Toronto is that all of these notable landmarks are within walking distance. You get off the streetcar at Yonge and Queen and walk west. Take it in, eat, shop, photograph and eventually rest.
Looking west along Queen Street West at Yonge Street
That’s where this article comes in. The resting.
And despite the go-go-go city, there are spots that offer peace and quiet. Because if you’re like me, someone who REALLY likes to sit down once in a while, then you will love these 5 serene spots. They are worth exploring and sitting down in.
5. Trinity Square
This little park is a gem. Located on the west side of the Eaton Centre and behind old City Hall (map), Trinity offers a bit of a cottage feel, plenty of green space and a historical backdrop while you sit. The Church of the Holy Trinity dates back to 1847and it plays the role of a terminating vista, offering a clear view from Bay Street. At certain times of the year, at dusk, it offers some incredible light.
As for the green space itself, you can enjoy plenty of seating and shade. Under a tree or in a Muskoka chair for extra comfort.
4. Green Roof at City Hall
Cross Bay Street and you get to one of my favourite structures in Toronto. City Hall (map). It’s unlike any other city hall in the world. Unique, curvaceous, ahead of its time and warm. Well, as warm as cement can possibly be. The big knock over the years around City Hall was the fact that there was too much cement and not enough green space in Nathan Phillips Square (directly in front of City Hall).
So in late 2009, a green roof was eventually added. More than 10,000 people showed up and took advantage of it when it opened in May 2010 and since then, it’s consistently used by those who want to eat their lunch in peace, those who love to meditate and even those who love the view. Walk up the ramp and enjoy.
3. Courtyard in the Sheraton Centre Hotel
Across the street from City Hall, you find the Sheraton Centre Hotel (map). I don’t picture too many locals going into the Sheraton unless it’s necessary but next time you’re downtown, go inside and check the courtyard. It’s stunning no matter what the season. Here’s the winter look.
The hotel offers seating in the lobby with clear views of the courtyard and its two waterfalls. Convenient when it’s cold outside. But in the summer, you can go outside and view them up close. Grab a seat, read a book and enjoy the sounds of the waterfalls all while the busy city moves around you.
2. Grange Park
Further west and just north of that iconic corner of Queen and John, you find Grange Park (map). The reason I love the Grange is because it’s a beautiful, unpredictable space. Expect anything and everything here, including early morning Tai Chi from local residents. The space is also beautifully surrounded by both modern architectural beauty as well as history.
Near the south side entrance, we have St. George the Martyr Anglican Church which which opened its doors in 1845.
On the northeast side, we have the main building of OCAD University, Canada’s largest and oldest educational institution for art and design.
The Grange (house) was built around 1817 for Lawyer and Merchant D’Arcy Boulton Jr. In 1911, his Wife Harriette insisted that the house become property of what is now the Art Gallery of Ontario (blue building with winding staircase).
Looking south from The Grange.
1. Osgoode Hall
It’s a funny thing with Osgoode Hall (map). Despite the grounds being so close to busy traffic on Queen Street West, somehow it feels like a world away. The beautiful Greek-inspired architecture as well as the greenery inside the gates makes the small space popular with both wedding photographers as well as the lunch time crowd. It’s graceful, intimate and tranquil.
There you have it. It is in fact possible to get some rest and relaxation in the middle of a busy and frenetic downtown Toronto. If you have a better green space that you want to suggest or if we missed one, please let us know.
Otherwise, pick your park, have a seat and relax.
This historic stretch, aka Old Queen Street East, was supposed to blow up years ago. Many were hoping that both foot traffic and businesses would pick up considering how close this neighbourhood is to Yonge Street. But unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. As you’ll find out below, this stretch of the 501 has some years to go before more eager shoppers flock to it.
Feel of the Area
I’m not going to lie. Between Victoria and Sherbourne Streets, Queen East is pretty desolate. More desolate once you go east of Church Street. If you’re looking for food and bar options, there are a few options but not many. Queen East is for the more adventurous soul, those who love exploring often overlooked parts, enjoy off the beaten path parts. This part of the 501 is charming in that Old Toronto style. From the Metropolitan Church to McTamney’s and Ash Farrelly’s George Street Diner, Historic Queen East is definitely a unique section of downtown Toronto. What is lacks in finesse, it makes up for with eccentricity.
Why Visit This Area
The largest Church in downtown Toronto, The Met is a stunning building that dates back to the 1870s. Although most of the original building burnt down in 1928, the newer version was built on the old foundations. The Gothic church reopened in 1929 and in 1930, a new organ was installed. Updated and restored over the years, it now has more than 8,200 pipes with sizes ranging from a large as 32 feet and as small as a pencil. To go along with the massive organ, it also has 54 bells.
St. Michael’s Cathedral
Located just north of Queen Street, St. Michael’s is one of my favourite churches in Toronto. Built in the Gothic revival style and dedicated in 1848, this cathedral is home to the largest English-speaking Catholic diocese in Canada. Iconic and significant, it was built to accommodate and serve the growing RC population of Toronto, especially during the immense influx of immigrants from Ireland fleeing the Irish famine in the 1840s and 50s.
Another iconic symbol of Toronto happens to be one of Canada’s oldest and most established family run businesses. McTamney’s has been in the buying and selling business for over 150 years. The shop has been at Church and Queen for nearly 100 years. Generations of people have come and gone through the doors including a few celebrities here and there.
George Street Diner
There’s B Espresso Bar next door to upscale George Restaurant which is next door tofunky Carbon Bar. All modern, slick and on Queen Street. But if you’re like me and want a bit of nostalgia with your meal then venture off Queen. Go south 1 block to Richmond Street at George Street (map). There, you’ll find one of the most authentic diners in Toronto’s east end, an Owner with a great story and a simple philosophy.
In my opinion, it all starts from the top. If the Boss is good, the staff will be good, the food will be quality and in turn the customers you attract will be good. Bad ownership means bad everything. When it comes to the George Street Diner, Owner Ash Farrelly brings positive energy from the first hello to the last goodbye. Walk in here and you’re treated like family.
Ash is a lovely lady who came to Canada from Ireland. Like many immigrants, she came with a dream and only a few dollars in her pocket. After much hard work and a necessary bank loan, Ash took charge of the Diner and put some soul into it. Her inviting personality and warm sense of humour creates an energy that is like no other. Here, it’s about meeting people, talking to people, face-to-face interaction. Like the good old days. You won’t find a TV or WiFi. Here, it’s all about reigniting the lost art of conversation.
There you have it, Historic Queen East. Did we miss something about this neighbourhood that you feel we should have included? Let us know.